PM suggests workers have had enough 'days off' as government pushes return to work

28 March 2021, 11:15

Boris Johnson said people have had "quite a few days off" during lockdown.
Boris Johnson said people have had "quite a few days off" during lockdown. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Boris Johnson has said people "have had quite a few days off" during the pandemic, as the government pushes for workers to prepare to get back into the office after lockdown.

On Saturday, at the Conservatives' virtual spring forum, the prime minister was asked whether the UK can have a bank holiday called "national hangover day" once the pandemic subsides.

But Mr Johnson put down the suggestion, responding: "The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn't be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office."

Read more: Rishi Sunak urges workers to get back into the office after lockdown

The comments come as sections of the government appear to be pushing for a strong return to offices, as England continues down its roadmap out of lockdown.

Official guidance continues to state that people should work from home if possible, but a review is expected in the coming weeks.

Read more: When will working from home end in the UK?

Boris Johnson said Chancellor Rishi Sunak "was pretty keen" for people to get back into empty offices.
Boris Johnson said Chancellor Rishi Sunak "was pretty keen" for people to get back into empty offices. Picture: PA

On Friday, Rishi Sunak warned staff may "vote with their feet" and quit their jobs if they are not provided with an office, as he urged firms to reopen their workspaces after lockdown.

Companies across the UK are now looking at how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working once lockdown ends, with many backing a hybrid model as employees seek to remain working from their homes part-time.

Read more: Tory MP Steve Baker: PM should 'look at data' and bring forward route out of lockdown

On Thursday, Nationwide Building Society unveiled plans to allow 13,000 employees to choose where they work.

The lending giant said it would put office staff in control of deciding where they were based according to their job once the latest Covid-19 restrictions ended, after more than half - 57% - said they wanted to work from home full-time.

A poll by LBC last September found just one employee in 13 was desperate to get back to the office.

Some have concerns that long term work from home could lead to thousands of high street closures.
Some have concerns that long term work from home could lead to thousands of high street closures. Picture: PA

The PM noted Mr Sunak was "was pretty keen" for people to get back into the office, during his comments on Saturday.

However, Labour and some scientists have taken aim at the suggestion, warning any push for workers to return would be premature.

Shadow employment rights and protections secretary, Andy McDonald told The Guardian that Mr Johnson's comments were deeply irresponsible.

“He is trying appease the libertarian wing of his party on the one hand by talking about getting back to the office, then suggesting he is being cautious," Mr McDonald told the newspaper.

"He just throws out comments like this. You can’t ride two horses at once. It is not leadership, it is simply cavalier.”

Meanwhile, Independent SAGE member Professor Martin McKee told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday we need to drive cases "down to a very low level, which we are not at yet".

Prof McKee said the number of cases needs to more than halve from the current level if lockdown is to be eased successfully - reducing cases to "certainly below 20 per 100,000" people, down from the current level of around 56 cases per 100,000 people.